The Situationist

Elena Kagan’s Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 10, 2010

In today’s New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katharine Q. Seelye and Lisa W. Foderaro  have an illuminating biography of Supreme Court Nominee (and Situationist friend and supporter) Elena Kagan. Here are the opening paragraphs of that story.

* * *

She was a creature of Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side — a smart, witty girl who was bold enough at 13 to challenge her family’s rabbi over her bat mitzvah, cocky (or perhaps prescient) enough at 17 to pose for her high school yearbook in a judge’s robe with a gavel and a quotation from Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court justice, underneath.

She was the razor-sharp newspaper editor and history major at Princeton who examined American socialism, and the Supreme Court clerk for a legal giant, Thurgood Marshall, who nicknamed her “Shorty.” She was the reformed teenage smoker who confessed to the occasional cigar as she fought Big Tobacco for the Clinton administration, and the literature lover who reread Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” every year.

She was the opera-loving, poker-playing, glass-ceiling-shattering first woman to be dean of Harvard Law School, where she reached out to conservatives (she once held a dinner to honor Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) and healed bitter rifts on the faculty with gestures as simple as offering professors free lunch, just to get them talking.

Elena Kagan has been all of these things, charting a careful and, some might say, calculated path — never revealing too much of herself, never going too far out on a political limb — that has led her to the spot she occupies today: the first female solicitor general of the United States, who won confirmation with the support of some important Republicans, and now, at 50, President Obama’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court.

* * *

The entire story is here.   Congratulations to Elena.

To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Martha Minow Named Dean of Harvard Law School,” The Situation of Harvard Law Students” “Hanson’s Chair Lecture on Situationism,” “The News Situation of Judge Sotomayor’s Nomination,” and The Situation of Judicial Activism.”

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3 Responses to “Elena Kagan’s Situation”

  1. [...] Elena Kagan's Situation « The Situationist [...]

  2. dave hoffman said

    I’m sure it is excessively formal and old-fashioned to think this, but is there any reason you didn’t refer to S.G. Kagan by her current or former Deanish title, rather than by her first name? I guess I would have been surprised had you referred to then-Judge(s) Alito or Roberts as Sam or John…

  3. I’m assuming that it’s because she’s a “Situationist friend and supporter.”

    Friends get first names . . . perhaps until they become judges/justices (and perhaps forever).

    Of course, if your point is that there might be some sort of implicit gender dynamic going on (along the lines of calling the Secretary of State “Hillary” but the President “Obama”), that’s worth thinking about.

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